Jane Fonda Calls Vietnam Photo ‘An Unforgivable Mistake’ (VIDEO)
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Jane Fonda was always an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. In 1972, theAcademy Award-winning actress and activist traveled to North Vietnam and was photographed laughing and clapping along with Vietnamese soldiers. What followed was a long-lasting wave of criticism and international outrage that earned Fonda the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”
That Vietnam photograph has followed Fonda ever since — and she has apologized for it publicly and privately many times over. In this clip from an episode of “Oprah’s Master Class,” she does so once again, calling her appearance in the photo “an unforgivable mistake” and sharing the details of how the photograph happened in the first place.
In the clip, Fonda explains that she was taken to a North Vietnam military site on the last day of her visit, even though she did not want to go. “I was an emotional wreck by [then],” she remembers. “I don’t know if I was set up or not. I was an adult. I take responsibility for my actions.”
That’s when a small ceremony began. “These soldiers sang a song; I sang a song in feeble Vietnamese,” she says. “Everyone was laughing. I was led to a gun site and I sat down. And I was laughing and clapping, and there were pictures taken.”
As Fonda walked away from the site, she suddenly realized how those pictures would look to the rest of the world. “I understand the anger about that,” she admits.
Years later, Fonda arranged to meet privately with a group of Vietnam veterans. Some of the veterans had attended the meeting eager to confront the woman they considered a traitor, and to fully express their hostility. Fonda remembers one man in particular. “[He had been with] the Delta death squad and he had an ace of spades,” she says. “That was the card that would be thrown when he was going to kill someone, and he brought it with him [to the meeting]. He was intending to challenge me and throw it at my feet.”
In the clip, Fonda reveals what happened during the meeting — including how the man ended up tearing up his ace of spades and throwing it in the trash. “I don’t mean that every single man there suddenly was ‘fond of Fonda,'” she says. “But there was a lot of healing.”
The moving experience taught Fonda a life lesson that extends beyond the Vietnam controversy. “We have to listen to each other, even when we don’t agree, even when we think we hate each other,” she says. “I learned so much from that meeting. It was a very difficult thing to do and it was one of the best things that I ever did in my life. Look what scares you in the face and try to understand it. Empathy, I have learned, is revolutionary.”